The best hope for mobile wallets may be in everything except payments, according to a new study by mobile marketing vendor Vibes. That's a conclusion based on an online survey of 1,000 adult smartphone owners, the results of which were released last Thursday (Aug. 22).
According to the survey, 33 percent think mobile wallets can only be used for payments, while another 19 percent have no idea what a mobile wallet is. That leaves 48 percent—just under half—who know mobile wallets can be used for coupons, offers and loyalty-program information. Only 19 percent remember any retailer offering mobile-wallet-specific content in the last six months, though. And 85 percent say they would receive some benefit from the non-payment side of mobile wallets.
That suggests Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has the right idea with its iPhone Passbook feature, and seems to explain the failures of payment-oriented mobile wallets such as Google Wallet to gain any traction.
But reading only a little further into the survey results suggests that consumers and retailers have different ideas about what a mobile wallet is from the very beginning. For example, when asked "How do you prefer to receive mobile wallet content?" only 19 percent chose an app from a retailer, while 4 percent choose a mobile banner ad, 20 percent picked a text message and 46 percent preferred e-mail from the retailer.
But 11 percent said their favorite way was through a direct-mail offer. Yes, it's possible that those consumers were thinking of QR codes on coupons that came in the mail. Even if it's true, that's certainly not how most retailers are thinking about digital mobile-wallet content.
And that suggests there's still either a huge gap between merchants and their customers, or a huge amount of education that any merchant hoping to use a mobile wallet will need to do with many consumers—and probably both.
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